Definition of Hate Crime

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Criminological theories explain a wide range of criminal and deviant behaviour, where crime is and can be committed for a variety of reasons. Hate crimes, in particular, is a unique form of deviance in their own right, where the focus of the crime is on the meaning and impact of the offence itself (Perry, 2002). People who indulge in this form of crime are not gaining anything that is tangible or financially advantageous, their primary motive is to express their violent disapproval of another person’s particular race, beliefs, gender and in this case sexual orientations.

Hate crime can be either felt or expressed through a number of ways, either through media or just personally. It is primarily directed toward one group from another group or it could be directed towards a particular individual because they are from that group. There is prejudice based on generalisations and/or assumptions that are made about the members in this group (Walter, 2011). Which lead to stereotyping, which they could have a negative effect on society, that particular group or on a micro level, a single individual.

Allport (1954) explains that mere prejudice can give proper conditions for aggression and violence but sexual orientations are not merely enough to lead groups or individuals to perform hate crimes against sexual minorities (Willard, 1954). Where people go about living their lives, the prejudice emerges when they funnel their negative beliefs through participating in social groups or political committees which are centred around the maintenance of the current social structure in regards to sexual orientation (Willard, 1954). These non-violent actions are acceptable behaviour within the current social and legal constructs, while still serving into the server disapproval of people’s sexualities which go against heteronormative beliefs.

Another type of group, are more openly violent with their disapproval, they rely on frequent direct violent acts on the LGBT community, in order to communicate their prejudice and to assert authority over this community. This group lack the utilization of political power, thus resorting to more traditional biases such as physical violence (Willard, 1954).

Homophobia is a term that is used for the general discomfort that one shows towards homosexuals or non-heterosexuals. Where an individual simply has a fear of other men or women who aren’t heterosexual, this then leads to a toll on those men who are considered less masculine (Herek, 2000).

Tajfel (1974) tries to understand intergroup discrimination, the theory behind this study was that each social group create a form of criteria that favour the inner group which come at an expense to the outer group. The theory outlines that for a group to positively differentiate themselves from the outer groups, the inner group put emphasis on their superiority in some valued dimension, like race, sex, religion or even sexual orientation (Tajfel, 1974). However, people do not belong to one set group, much rather multiple groups which then results in multiple social identities, thus our beliefs and morals a line with their relative inner group that they associate themselves with. Therefore, according to social identity theory, it is our desire and pursuit to separate ourselves from outer groups that lead to people participating in hate crimes against people from other groups (Tajfel, 1974).

Social identity theory explains the bias-motivated crimes, although this theory is showing great promise in explaining anti-gay hate crime, there are a few weaknesses that fail to explain why certain people do not choose sexual orientation as a reason for committing hate crimes. This theory fails to explain the reason why some other characteristics in which an inner group would differentiate themselves. Where an individual could decide to discriminate one outer group but not the other. Thus, making this theory rather general, the theory fails to explain why people decide to discriminate towards sexuality and not discriminate other outer group traits (Guittar, 2013).

Another theory that has been used to explain hate crimes is that of Merton’s (1968) strain theory, he argues that deviance is a result from an imbalance or ‘disequilibrium’ which rises from gaps between goals and the means of obtaining these goals in a legitimate manner (Merton, 1968). This theory explains that due to inequality in education, income or individual capacity, where they then simply are unable to obtain the goal that has been set by society. This resulting in stain placed upon individuals who desire these material chattels that are essential for one’s success. Due to the stress and pressure individuals turn to illegitimate ways of achieving that success that is set by society, one of these ways of achieving the materials and respect that allow an individual to aspire in social status is violence (Walter, 2011).

A study was done by Agnew (1992) expanded on the types of strain that impact the individual’s predisposition towards deviance. This relates to the relationships that are affected negatively with others infringe of the individual’s ability to obtain their valued social goal. Agnew argues that others may prevent an individual from achieving their desired goals, which are statues, monetary and autonomy goals. Thus feeling angry and frustrated with this circumstance that will lead to the individual in obtaining their goals in an illegitimate manner (Agnew, 1992). Agnew uses the example of negative relationships, which relate to minority groups such as the LGBT group, where there is a socio-economic instability in an individual’s life, where they may blame this instability on other groups.

When minority groups start to move in new localities which are now through the eyes of the individual as an invasion their inner group’s territory. This then resonates fear in people already living in the area, that the newcomers will impose on their already unstable social and economic security, thus will impose on their valued goals. This then results in some individuals thinking negatively toward the newcomers for obtaining the goals that they feel aren’t there’s to obtain (Agnew, 1992). Resulting in minority groups becoming incriminated by the dominant members of society such as media and other influential platforms, blamed for socio-economic problems (Walter, 2011).

Fear is a dominating factor in this theory, where fear overcomes the dominant social group and their socio-economic security which fuel prejudice towards minority groups. Dominate groups strive to protect their social norms and beliefs, which give them social power. Thereby, giving them the power to suppress the groups that fail to fit with their norms or beliefs, because they fear they may lose their power and prosperity to this outer group (Walter, 2011). Therefore, the dominant group commit hate-related crime, which goes two ways, the first is where hate crime is used as a way to prevent the minority group (e.g. LGBT or racial minority) from climbing the socio-economic ladder, which then takes with them resources and power and that changes the way the dominant group live. This then brings upon the second type of hate crime, where the dominant group placing blame on the minority group as a means to justify the disequilibrium in the social structure (Young, 1999).

The limitation that this theory poses is that it cannot be linked to all kinds of hate crime. That it doesn’t explain socio-economic disadvantage to all hate crimes, while it’s accepted that most hate affiliated crime is those of disadvantaged individuals, stain theory cannot explain from a wider range of socio-economic backgrounds. Where this could work understanding one type of hate crime but could be completely irrelevant to other types. Strain theory gives a great and in-depth understanding of the macro level of hate-related behaviour, however, lacks the understanding of why only some individuals commit hate crimes but those who are equally disadvantaged do not (Walter, 2011). Relying heavily on the fact that some take the strain more than others and that is why they commit hate related crime.

To conclude, this article explored two of the many theories that explain hate crime against minority groups such as LGBT. Social identity theory and strain theory, both present the different ways in which groups cultivate prejudice which develops into hate crime. Social identity theory outlines the differences between groups which lead to discrimination among one inner group to an outer group. Strain theory exhibits that dominate groups wanting to keep the socio-economic power, preventing the minority from climbing the socio-economic ladder, then blaming the minority for the imbalance in society.

Both theories are sufficient in explaining why hate crime exists in society, they both have their limitations. While both exhibit great understanding of hate crime towards minorities, one is slightly more superior to the other. Stain theory explains hate crime at a better extent and greater depth than social identity theory. It provides a great understanding of the macro level of hate crime, as to why a society commits hate-related behaviour but relies too much on that, where it lacks the understanding as to why some individuals commit hate crimes and others who are in a same or similar situation do not commit hate crimes. The theory relies too heavily on the fact that some people take the strain more than others, however, this does not sufficiently close the gap between macro and micro. However, this theory can be improved upon and also improve society as a whole, where there should be more research on the micro level, bridging the gap between macro and micro.

This will allow more scaled measurements is to why individuals commit a crime, also giving light on right over resources while also giving the ability to measure fear and threats that are posed by outer or minority group to dominate group’s traditions, norms and values (Walter, 2011). This will then allow criminologists to distinguish the groups that are exhibiting such behaviour with ease and can respond better to prejudice within society. These measurements could allow society to detect this deviance and also allow for it to be prevented, where there could be sufficient education within the community and resources allocated in preventing the strain within the groups. However, there will always be a strain in a group, dominate or otherwise, this method will most likely reduce the strain that is currently in society.

Cite this paper

Definition of Hate Crime. (2021, Jan 18). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/definition-of-hate-crime/

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